Dir: Ken Loach, UK, 2019, 101 mins
Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone
If there’s one thing you can say about Ken Loach (to paraphrase Shakespeare) ‘Age does not wither him’. His latest film about an unemployed builder who takes a parcel delivery job in the gig economy took Cannes by storm, and deservedly so. A powerful film, spiked with humour and moments of rare but profound humanity, it’s in the quiet observation of a frayed couple of working parents and their two children that Loach’s latest achieves real, nuanced emotional engagement.
Dir: Tyler Nilson & Mike Schwartz, US, 2019, 97 mins
Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gottsagen
A modern Mark Twain-esque adventure where a small-time fisherman joins forces with Zak, a young man with Down Syndrome, on the run from the nursing home with the dream of becoming a professional wrestler as they sail down the North Carolina coast. A film just packed with effortless charm.
Dir: Martin Scorsese, US, 2019, 209 mins
Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
Martin Scorsese returns with probably his best film since Goodfellas with this telling of the true story of a truck driver who becomes a mob enforcer. A majestic epic with ice in its veins, Scorsese has given us a canvas of greed, violence, ambition, politics, and corruption, the likes of which have not been seen before.
Dir: Benjamin Naishtat, Argentina, 2018, 109 mins, Spanish dialogue with subtitles
Claudio Martínez Bel, Mara Bestelli, Alfredo Castro
Claudio, a prosperous middle-aged lawyer, is verbally attacked by a mysterious stranger in a restaurant. Their argument continues on the street outside, and then escalates with drastic consequences. A few months later, a private detective who is intent on locating the missing stranger turns up and Claudio’s life starts to unravel. Set just prior to the military coup, the film builds a quiet mood of foreboding and impending doom through a carefully constructed, almost hypnotic narrative.
Dir: Bill Condon, UK, 2019, 109 mins
Helen Mirren, Russell Tovey, Ian McKellen
A smart and suspenseful thriller in which a veteran conman who targets an elderly widow via the internet surprises himself caring about her, turning what should be a perfect swindle into the most treacherous tightrope walk of his life. Legendary actors Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen star together on screen for the first time in a cat-and-mouse duet that turns into an elegant waltz of affection and deception.
James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
Little introduction is needed for this heartwarming classic film ,that’s become an IFT staple, about a deeply troubled man who is rescued by an angel who shows him that his life has not been a waste after all. A masterpiece of the festive season.
Dir: Victor Saville, UK, 1935, 93 mins
Jessie Matthews, Sonnie Hale, Anna Lee
A sly, sparkling, cross-dressing comedy, First a Girl is an absolute joy to watch. An adaption of the 1933 German film Viktor und Viktoria (later remade as Victor Victoria with Julie Andrews) it sees a shop girl pretending to be a boy in order to perform onstage as a female impersonator. Starring Jessie Matthews, one of the era’s biggest British stars, the film mixes its clever conceit with risqué comedy and impressive song-and-dance numbers to thoroughly entertaining and surprisingly transgressive effect.
Dir: Kim Longinotto, Ire/US, 2019, 94 mins, English & Italian dialogue with subtitles
In her 40s, stuck in a stuffy household and battling depression, Letizia Battaglia took a job as a photographer for a Palermo newspaper. Planning to document ordinary people’s lives, she instead found herself recording the reign of terror inflicted on the city by the Mafia. Her photographs of the period are astonishing; visually dazzling, their cool, honest depiction of the brutality metered out to her fellow citizens still feels taboo. An inspiring account of a woman so loyal to her city and the need to document its reality, she disregarded the danger to her own life.
Dir: Noah Baumbach, US, 2019, 137 mins
Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern
Noah Baumbach revisits the subject of divorce, explored so memorably in his 2005 debut, The Squid and the Whale, and the result lays claim to being his finest work to date. An exquisite and empathetic portrayal of the divorce proceedings between Charlie and Nicole, now living at opposite ends of the country, and its effects on their eight-year-old son, Henry, who finds himself in the middle of an increasingly vicious dispute.
Dir: Alejandro Landes, Columbia, 2019, 102 mins, Spanish dialogue with subtitles
Sofia Buenaventura, Julian Giraldo, Karen Quintero
An edge-of-the-seat thriller about group of child soldiers who operate nearly autonomously on a remote mountaintop, and who are holding an American hostage, periodically filming her for proof of life and political ends. A visually splendid and thought-provoking look at human nature, whose insights leave a lingering impact.
Dir: John Chester, US, 2019, 91 mins
John Chester, Molly Chester, Matthew Pilachowski
An inspirational documentary which shares the personal journey of a couple who quit their life in Los Angeles to pursue their dream of entirely rethinking their ecological footprint. Both personal and remarkably objective, it offers a first-hand account of their trial-and-error attempt to start a biodiverse agricultural operation on land that had long since been stripped of nutrients.
Dir: Karen Gillan, UK, 2019, 91 mins
Karen Gillan, Lee Pace, Paul Higgins
Karen Gillan (Amy Pond from Dr Who) writes, directs, and stars in this drama about a Scottish young woman struggling to cope with the effects of a friend’s suicide, filling the void in her life with casual sex and soon spiralling out of control. A rich and powerful tale of grief and hardship, blending the harsh aspects of life with an unapologetic sense of humour to tell a purely human story.
Dir: Scott Z. Burns, US, 2019, 120 mins
Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm
A gripping political drama telling the true story of Daniel J. Jones, a staff member of the U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence, who in 2009 gets charged with heading up a Senate investigative report into the CIA’s use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ during the aftermath of 9/11. Driver shines in his portrayal of a man consumed, at the expense of everything else, by his mission: to learn what the CIA did and why.
Dir: Mirrah Foulkes, Aus, 2019, 106 mins
Damon Herriman, Mia Wasikowska, Benedict Hardie
In the unconventional town of Seaside, two famous puppeteers, Judy & Punch, try to resurrect their marionette show. The show is a hit due to Judy’s superior puppetry – but Punch’s driving ambition and penchant for drink lead to an ill-fated turn of events that Judy must avenge. An inventive, playful and defiantly feminist live-action take on the famous (and famously misogynistic) 16th century puppet show.
Dir: Damon Gameau, Aus, 2019, 92 mins
Framed as a letter to his four-year-old daughter Velvet, award-winning director Damon Gameau takes us on a journey to explore what the future would look like by the year 2040 if we were to embrace current scientific initiatives that are already available to us to save our planet from ecological disaster. An uplifting call to arms in the form of a traditional documentary footage blending together with dramatised sequences and high-end visual effects.
Dir: Kasi Lemmons, US, 2019, 126 mins
Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn
An stirring biopic about Harriet Tubman, the remarkable former slave turned abolitionist who escaped from enslavement on a Maryland farm and from then on worked to liberate other slaves by means of a network known as the Underground Railroad. A lesson in courage which has inspired many around the globe and will continue to do so for generations to come.
Dir: Nicolas Bedos, Fr, 2019, 115 mins, French dialogue with subtitles
Daniel Auteuil, Guillaume Canet, Fanny Ardant
Victor, a cartoonist living in the grip of an existential crisis, hires the services of a Virtual Reality company, seeking to recreate the events of a week in 1974, when he first met and fell in love with his wife Marianne, with whom he has since become estranged. A comedic look at enduring love and memory as it is transformed over the course of a lifetime, served brilliantly by the fascinating and poignant turns of French cinema icons.
Dir: Claire McCarthy, UK/US, 2019, 107 mins
Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Anna Rust
Ophelia takes centre stage as Queen Gertrude’s most trusted lady-in-waiting. Beautiful and intelligent, she soon captures the attention of the handsome Prince Hamlet and a forbidden love blossoms. As war brews, lust and betrayal are tearing Elsinore Castle apart from within and Ophelia must decide between her true love or her own life in order to protect a very dangerous secret. A vigorous, colourful and clever melodrama that smartly rethinks both the play and the character, making her a far more proactive figure than in Hamlet.